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What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy X-rays, electrons or other sources of radiation to treat diseases – usually cancer. It can also be used to treat noncancerous conditions, including blocked coronary arteries.

Radiation therapy works by damaging the genetic material within cancer cells. Once this happens, the cancer cells are not able to grow and spread. When these damaged cancer cells die, the body naturally removes them. Normal cells are also affected by radiation, but they can repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot. Your radiation oncologist will develop a plan to deliver the radiation to the tumor area, shielding as much surrounding normal tissue as possible.

Your radiation oncologist may recommend using radiation therapy to:

  • Eliminate tumors that have not spread to other parts of your body
  • Reduce the risk that cancer will return after you undergo surgery or chemotherapy by killing cancer cells that might remain
  • Shrink the tumor before surgery
  • Treat benign conditions

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Advanced Technology for Targeted Treatment

What is Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)?

When your cancerous or noncancerous tumor is being treated, you want the radiation to hit just that – the tumor. IMRT is a form of radiation treatment that is often used when needing to deliver a high dose of radiation to target the tumor. It is especially effective when the treatment area is located very close to a healthy organ that cannot tolerate much radiation, because the radiation beams conform with the shape of the tumor.

Using multiple beams of varying intensity, our elite team of board-certified radiation oncologists ensure the radiation dose is adjusted as necessary throughout your treatment plan; this ensures we are providing care that is adjusted personally for you. As with all of our treatments, you’ll receive ongoing emotional and educational support through our nurse navigators and Life With Cancer support team. 

Learm more about IMRT

Image Guided Radiation Therapy

Accuracy When it Matters Most

What is Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)?

Before your radiation treatment begins, IGRT uses various imaging technologies that allow us to accurately locate the tumor. IGRT helps better locate and deliver the radiation, as tumors can move between treatments. We often use IGRT along with Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) to ensure the most precise and accurate radiation treatment. 

Our board-certified team of radiation oncologists utilize the Trilogy IMRT and IGRT treatment units which offer the latest technology to deliver a direct form of radiation. Even in patients in which IMRT is not an option, we often use Trilogy and IGRT. It’s also extremely accurate and effective on small tumors, including those within the brain.

Learn more about IGRT

Brachytherapy

Most Advanced and Experienced in the Washington, DC Area

What is Brachytherapy?

With particular cancer diseases, as well as tumors such as those in the brain and eye, radioactive sources may need to be placed within the body temporarily while they deliver a specific dose of radiation to the tumor over a set time and then removed. This type of treatment allows us to deliver a higher dose of radiation to the target and limits any exposure to your surrounding normal tissue. 

Our team of radiation oncologists are the most advanced and experienced in providing both High Dose Rate (HDR) and Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. We often work with surgical specialists to perform the treatment. Both HDR and LDR are outpatient procedures that do not require general anesthesia. 

Be sure to consult with your physician to determine if Brachytherapy is an option for you. 

Learn more about Brachytherapy

Superficial Radiation Therapy

Focused Treatment for Skin Cancer

What is Superficial Radiation Therapy?

While many radiation treatments need to deliver a high dose of radiation to go deep and reach the tumor, that isn’t always the case. With superficial basal and squamous skin cancers, we only need to treat the surface of the skin. For this, we use low energy rays similar to what you would experience with a chest X-ray, but in larger quantities. 

Small skin cancers, particularly those on the face or those over bone, can be treated using High Dose Rate (HDR) skin brachytherapy. Each treatment session takes about 30 seconds and most patients undergo a series of about 6 to 12 treatments over two to three weeks. You won’t experience any sensation during treatment, and the only side effect you may have is skin reddening. 

Our doctors will work closely with your dermatologist or skin cancer specialist to determine if Superficial Radiation Therapy is an option for you.

Learn more about Superficial Radiation Therapy

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

A Major Advance in Neurosurgery and Oncology

What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)?

An excellent alternative to surgery for many patients, Inova is proud to offer this noninvasive treatment for brain cancer and tumors. Our brain tumor specialists are SRS specialized experts, and have the most extensive experience in Northern Virginia. We offer Frameless SRS for selected patients utilizing the CyberKnife® robotic radiosurgery system and the Trilogy® machine.

If your doctor determines SRS is an option for you, your treatment is delivered in one to five sessions over the course of a week. SRS is a painless procedure that does not require an overnight hospital stay. With generally no recovery time needed, you are able to return to normal daily activities with little interruption. 

Learn more about a typical SRS procedure

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Non-Invasive Treatment for Many Cancers

What is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)?

Used to treat numerous conditions throughout the body, SBRT allows us to provide a noninvasive option for patients where surgery is not an option, or where traditional radiation treatment was not effective. SBRT uses accurate imaging through either the CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system or Trilogy machine to guide treatment and directly target your tumor. 

The most common diseases treated with SBRT can include (but are not limited to):

  • Inoperable Lung Tumors
  • Lung Metastases
  • Spine Cancers
  • Liver Tumors and Liver Metastases
  • Pancreatic Tumors
  • Adrenal Metastases
  • Kidney Tumors
  • Brain Tumors and Brain Metastases

In most cases, your tumor can be treated in one to five SBRT sessions. SBRT is a painless treatment with little to no recovery time after the procedure.

Learn more about a typical SBRT procedure

Radioisotope Therapy

Inevasive Therapy

What is Radioisotope Therapy?

A liquid form of radiation, radioisotope therapy is often administered via an infusion or injection directly into the bloodstream. The radioactive compounds then seek out the cancer cells and allow for delivery of the treatment directly to the cancer within your body. 

Through clinical research, we have found that radioisotope therapy appears most effective on those cancers that have spread and metastasized to the bone. The treatment is in-evasive, and the radioisotopes are usually removed by your body via the kidneys and pose no harm after they are administered. 

Our team of board-certified radiation oncologists will meet with you and your doctor to discuss the benefits and risks of Radioisotope Therapy and whether it is an option for your treatment plan. 

Pediatric Radiation Oncology

Specialized Care for Childhood Cancers

What is Pediatric Radiation Oncology?

Before treating your child’s cancer, our team of specialists will work with your child’s doctor to answer any questions and determine a personalized treatment plan. Many radiation therapies are used to treat pediatric cancers and we take every step to minimize the radiation exposure to our youngest patients, ensuring the best long term outcomes. 

Some of the treatment options for your child may include Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS), Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), Proton Therapy or some combination of these radiation treatments. Often young children will require anesthesia during treatment, and our team works closely with our Department of Anesthesia to ensure the procedures are administered safely.

Along with our elite board-certified radiation oncologists, your team will also include oncology nurses, child-life specialists, dedicated therapists, onsite nutrition services and social workers. All of us work together to ensure your child and family are well-informed and cared for throughout your treatment with us. 

Proton Therapy

Latest Precision Cancer Treatment Right in Northern Virginia

Inova Mather Proton Therapy Center is the only cancer center in Northern Virginia to offer proton therapy, providing you with the latest advances in treatment and care all under one roof. The most comprehensive cancer care in the region now includes the most technologically advanced form of radiation therapy.

What is Proton Therapy?

A form of radiation treatment, proton therapy offers precision targeting of cancer cells through a proton beam moving at high speeds. This treatment destroys the DNA of cancer cells, killing them and preventing them from multiplying.

In addition to the oncological benefits of proton therapy, it also is non-invasive, has fewer side effects and causes less harm to surrounding healthy tissues. It is highly effective in treating multiple cancer types including brain, head/neck, lung, prostate, breast and gastrointestinal malignancies as well as pediatric cancers.

With a focus on compassionate care, our team of elite board-certified radiation oncologists will work together with your physician to determine whether proton therapy is an option for you. You’ll also receive ongoing emotional and educational support throughout your treatment from our nurse navigators.

To learn more about proton therapy at Inova, please contact 703-PROTONS.

Radiation Therapy for Benign Disease

Treatments for Non-Cancerous Conditions

What is Radiation Therapy for Benign Disease?

While radiation therapy is almost exclusively used for treating cancer, it can also be utilized in some cases for benign conditions. These benign conditions are usually categorized by an uncontrolled growth of cells that can still do harm. Radiation can often stop and control these fast-growing cells.

Some of the types of conditions in which radiation therapy can be successful include:

  • Desmoid Tumor
  • Keloid Scar
  • Gynecomastia
  • Heterotopic Ossification

If you are seeking treatment for any of these conditions, we can work with your doctor to weigh the risks of radiation against the expected benefits. In many cases, the outcomes favor the use of radiation.

Learn more about the ways radiation can treat your benign disease

CyberKnife®

Non-Surgical and Non-Invasive Treatment

What is CyberKnife?

Despite its name, the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System is a non-surgical and non-invasive form of radiation therapy that treats many cancers and non-cancerous conditions. Compared to the weeks it takes to complete a course of conventional radiation therapy, your treatment with CyberKnife takes one to five days. It is a pain-free option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or who may be looking for an alternative to surgery. 

Through a flexible robotic arm, the CyberKnife system delivers incredibly precise beams of radiation therapy. The system accounts for your most subtle movements, which means no more invasive body frames or the need to hold your breath during treatment sessions. 

Some of the types of cancers we treat using CyberKnife include:

  • Brain Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pediatric Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer

Learn more about whether CyberKnife is an option for treating your cancer

Varian True Beam

Quick Treatment with Pinpoint Accuracy

What is Varian TrueBeam?

An advanced radiotherapy system, TrueBeam allows us to deliver extremely accurate treatment more quickly. For some simple treatments, a procedure that used to take 10 to 30 minutes can now be done in less than two minutes.

TrueBeam is very precise and focuses powerful radiation on a tumor while limiting any exposure to your surrounding healthy tissues or organs. It can be used to treat many types of cancers, especially those in sensitive areas such as the abdomen, liver, lung, breast, head and neck. 

TrueBeam provides you with comfortable, quick and effective treatment. To find out what your personalized treatment plan using TrueBeam might entail, please contact your doctor or our radiation oncologists.

Intraoperative Radiotherapy

Radiation Therapy During Surgery

What is Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT)?

Sometimes utilizing radiation therapy during surgery can help improve the outcome of your overall treatment. Through IORT, your team of radiation oncologists and surgeons can ensure that less tissue is exposed to radiation, and that the radiation is delivered directly to the tumor.

IORT is especially effective in breast cancers, colorectal cancers and sarcomas. Our team utilizes the Zeiss Intrabeam system which provides a less invasive means to deliver radiation during surgery.

This treatment is particularly effective in certain early-stage breast cancers, especially for women undergoing lumpectomies. By delivering the radiation during the lumpectomy procedure, no additional surgery is needed and radiation exposure is limited compared to some other radiation treatment methods (20 to 30 minutes, as compared to a five to six week course of radiation treatment).

To determine if IORT may be an option during your surgery, please consult your oncologist and surgeon.

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy

Targeted Treatment for Liver Tumors

What is Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT)?

By administering millions of tiny radioactive spheres (called SIR-Spheres) directly into the bloodstream, we are able to effectively treat tumors in the liver. SIRT is a means to treat tumors that cannot be removed through surgery.

Liver tumors that are treated with SIRT include:

  • hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • colorectal cancers that have metastasized to the liver
  • neuroendocrine tumors

Most patients will see a reduction or stabilization of their liver tumors after treatment.

To learn more about the procedure, as well as the risks and benefits of SIRT, please consult with your oncologist.